Hall-Dale’s Ashtyn Abbott is the 2019 Kennebec Journal Boys Basketball Player of the Year. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

FARMINGDALE — Ashtyn Abbott was the runner-up for Mountain Valley Conference Player of the Year last year, and before this season began, Hall-Dale boys basketball coach Chris Ranslow had a conversation with his standout forward.

The message? Get ready. Because this time, the league would be gunning for him.

“There was a lot of hype,” Ranslow said. “And I said ‘You’re going to absorb a lot of double teams. You’re going to be the entity the other team tries to stop.’ ”

They tried. Few succeeded. After finishing second as a junior, Abbott was the conference’s top player this season, as well as a Mr. Maine Basketball semifinalist while leading Hall-Dale to a 19-2 record and the Class C South final.

For his performance, Abbott is the Kennebec Journal boys basketball player of the year. Winthrop’s Cam Wood and Cony’s Simon McCormick were also considered.

“When you’re the guy that the other team is gameplanning against … you can’t fly under the radar. You get everybody’s best all the time,” Ranslow said. “He really developed into a star.”

Abbott also reached 1,000 points in a season that saw him average 21.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He also averaged 3.2 steals per contest, shot 52 percent from the field and was a 73 percent free-throw shooter.

“Coach Ranslow really stresses to me to slow the game down, and I think that really hit with me this year,” Abbott said. “I think being able to slow the game down and really read the situation, and attack what the defense is giving really helped me do what I do best.”

More impressive than the stats, though, was how Abbott went about accumulating them. On a nightly basis, Abbott showcased a remarkably versatile game, with an ability to pass like a point guard, shoot like a swingman and post up and rebound like a center.

The result was a natural stretch forward that could play almost any position on the court, and fit whatever role the Bulldogs needed him to play.

“When we came into the season, (Ranslow) talked with (senior guard) Alec (Byron) and I, and we looked at what we had and what we needed. And one of the things we needed was someone who could play a stretch,” Abbott said. “I may not be the strongest guy, but I think I’m one of the lengthier guys, and that definitely helps whether I’m taking it from the outside or posting up.”

That versatility meant the Bulldogs had a player who could exploit the soft underbelly of whatever scheme the defense threw at him.

“On the offensive end of the floor he’s a tough matchup,” Ranslow said. “He really can score from any area inside of 28 feet.”

Abbott pairs his balanced skill set with an athleticism that is both deceptive and dynamic. Six-foot-5 and rail-thin – or, in his own words, “scrawny” – Abbott doesn’t look physically imposing. But then the ball is tipped, and fans at a Hall-Dale game would see a player who is quick enough to slip between double teams and athletic enough to twist and finish in traffic, as well as dunk over a dozen times during the season.

“There were definitely times when I felt like I could do what I wanted,” Abbott said. “Looking back, I just remember being frustrated. I was too little to bring it in, so I just camped out at the 3-point line. Once I grew into my body, it kind of was like the opportunity of a lifetime to … finally do what I knew I could do all along.”

He was just as effective on the other end of the floor. Abbott frequently emerged from the crowd to block shots, and his leaping ability meant he rarely lost battles for rebounds, which he often snatched down with one hand.

“My hands are pretty big, so when I grab it it’s like a cup, and it’s almost force of habit to cup it with one hand because I know I can get higher,” he said. “(I’m) able to get up and grab a rebound over a kid who may be bigger or stronger than me.”

Ranslow said Abbott had a “knack” on the boards.

“The ball always found Ashtyn,” he said.

With those abilities combined into one player, it’s no wonder teams often devoted multiple players to guarding him – just as Ranslow predicted, and just what Abbott was ready to see.

“This year, he gained even more confidence down low and in the post. He could absorb double teams and find the way through to the glass,” Ranslow said. “Or redistribute … not only to kick out or to defuse away from pressure, but he looked to really hold on an extra second and let the guy finish his cut and get all the way to the rim or get all the way out.”

In other words, just what the Bulldogs needed to make a second straight trip to the regional final.

“This was one of the most fun seasons I ever had,” said Abbott, who is leaning toward playing both basketball and track and field at Saint Joseph’s College. “I don’t think I could have asked for anything more from our group.”

Drew Bonifant – 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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